Beautifully preserved habitats, wildlife sightings, docent-guided walks or self-guided hikes, hands-on activities...nature centers offer many ways for Los Angeles families to enjoy and learn about nature together! Take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend some time outside with the kids at any of these L.A. nature centers.
Hidden Valley Nature Center
Open to the public Saturdays, 10am-4pm
Parking is $5/car
Educational Programs are $5/person
Families can enjoy 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails at the Hidden Valley Wildlife Area, then head to the Nature Center to see more live animals up close, including rabbits, snakes and turtles. Hidden Valley's educational programs include hands-on, nature-based activities such as animal crafts and live animal presentations, and their programs incorporate music, movement, and stories to keep kiddos engaged.
Oak Canyon Nature Center
Free, $2 suggested donation
Oak Canyon Nature Center offers easy, mostly shaded and well-maintained hiking trails that are just right for younger hikers. Kiddos love running under the low oak trees and observing the different wildlife of birds, squirrels, rabbits and more. For families who want to include a little more nature time in their weekends, Oak Canyon offers a free ($5/family suggested donation) Discover Nature Family Program with a naturalist-led hike and live animal demonstrations most Saturday and Sunday mornings.
San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine
This sanctuary, hidden in the heart of Orange County, is a lovely place for families to come and observe different wildlife, from raccoons, ducks and gophers to over 200 species of migratory birds. The ponds, nestled around the 11 miles of nature trails, are a great place to watch for birds and free monthly walks are a great opportunity for kids to enjoy some regular time close to nature.
Environmental Nature Center
For a hands-on experience in and with nature, look no further than the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach. The butterfly house gives kiddos a chance to see and be surrounded by several butterfly species, and the Center's native plants are habitats for many kinds of birds such doves, egrets, finches, and more. From outdoor exploration, story time in the Redwoods, and naturalist-led activities, the ENC's programs provide tons of educational fun.
Whittier Narrows Nature Center
This wildlife sanctuary will inspire an appreciation for nature in naturalists young and old, offering trails where hikers can observe the many native birds, plants, and insects, as well as a plant garden which is open to visitors. Whittier Narrows offers monthly events of interest to the whole family, such as guided walks every Saturday morning and a monthly recycle rally where people can turn in their recyclables. The recycle rallies also offer arts and crafts for the little ones, animal presentations, and opportunities to take picture with the ranger raccoon!
Shipley Nature Center
Free, suggested donation of $1/person
When families walk through Shipley Nature Center, they're greeted by the scent of sage and redwood trees, the sounds of woodpeckers, squirrels, bullfrogs and blackbirds, and the breeze of the native habitat. There is no shortage of things to experience at this restored sanctuary: fun children's programs offer parent-and-me story time, coloring contests, and interactive learning, and a trail guide made especially for children makes it easy to explore the habitats with little ones.
Eaton Canyon Nature Center
Spend a Saturday morning enjoying a family nature walk at the Eaton Canyon Natural Area, where even the youngest nature enthusiasts can learn about plants, geology and more while observing plenty of wildlife. The rock, animal, bone and bird displays in the Nature Center offer wonderful learning opportunities, and the children's corner gives kids a chance to see if they can guess what animals are hiding in the "burrows" by touch alone, as well as other animal-themed activities.
El Dorado Nature Center
$5-$8 vehicle entry fee, cash only
Families may catch sightings of hummingbirds, geese, turtles, and more at the El Dorado Nature Center, which has two lakes on either end of the Nature Center and streams, ponds, wild flowers and trees dotting the stroller-friendly and mostly shaded hiking trails. The Center offers various nature programs on a regular basis, including a naturalist-led Family Night Walk every second Tuesday of the month, and workshops and other educational programming designed especially for kids.
Audubon Center at Debs Park
Grab the family and come get a dose of bird watching and more at the Audubon Center, a conservation sanctuary that has had over 140 species of birds spotted flying over it. This urban oasis holds many fun programs and events for families, including a guided family hike and nature-themed arts and crafts on the last Saturday of every month.
Deane Dana Friendship Park and Nature Center
Families can get up close and personal with captive-bred butterflies and live-animal displays of reptiles and insects at the Deane Dana Nature Center in Friendship Park, and if they are lucky, perhaps even catch a glimpse of Santa Catalina Island on a clear day! In addition to the beautiful coastal views, the park offers several kid-friendly programs, including animal-themed crafts, story time fun, and guided tours, as well as hiking trails and a children's play area to ensure a morning or afternoon of nature-inspired fun for everyone!
White Point Nature Preserve and Education Center
Families can spend hours outside enjoying the scenic ocean views along the handicap accessible hiking trails at White Point Nature Preserve, as well as some indoor time exploring the interpretive exhibits and native plant demonstration gardens at the Nature Center. Monthly activities include guided nature walks and full moon hikes led by friendly nature-enthusiasts, geologists, and historians, and children are treated to monthly storytelling fun, complete with nature-themed stories, songs, and activities.
Madrona Marsh Nature Center
The Madrona Marsh Nature Center provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and allows families to enjoy a variety of activities, from bird watching, to exploring animal exhibits, to a guided tour of the center. Kids six and under can enjoy a "Tyke Hike" with their favorite adult every first Thursday of the month, or explore Exhibit Hall any time to get up close & personal with different animal furs and snake skin sheddings.
Stoneview Nature Center
This urban garden sanctuary focuses on health, environment, and art. Families can go for a walk, enjoy freshly picked fruits and vegetables, bird watch, and learn about native plants. Stoneview also offers family-friendly programs such as weekly story times, movie afternoons, and hands-on activities like painting rocks in the communal garden.
Primary photo: Fernando Maté on Unsplash
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